No Adidas Sportswear, Jenna Ortega isn’t the solution to reaching the gen Z market

By Mason Berlinka

Published Feb 7, 2023 at 04:30 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Nike has dominated the gen Z scene with its innovative ambitions and exciting collaborations for as long as we can remember, and now it seems as though Adidas is desperate for a seat at the table. The German sportswear manufacturer’s solution? A boring campaign starring Wednesday star Jenna Ortega as the face of Adidas Sportswear, the brand’s first new label in five decades. I know, I was confused too.

Situated between Adidas Originals and Performance, the Sportswear line aims to balance sports and style—at least that’s what Aimee Arana, Adidas’ general manager of Sportswear and Training hopes to achieve.

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Speaking to Vogue, Arana explained that the new “lifestyle brand” will capitalise on changes that Adidas is witnessing within the market, propelled primarily by gen Z and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve probably all heard this by now, but there is more of a desire than ever before for the fashion consumer to be comfy, and to incorporate that into their everyday wear—a gap that has been narrowed significantly by explosive TikTok trends like #blokecore.

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Surveys from research firm Piper Sandler as well as Ortega and South Korean football legend Son Heung-Min may have been enough to get a board of Adidas executives excited, but is it enough to win the ever so complicated hearts of our generation when the clothing shown in the campaign appears so lifeless?

Arana went on to explain to Vogue that young people are prioritising comfort in a post-pandemic society, but what we’ve seen of the label so far is painfully basic and critically fails to understand how gen Z approaches fashion. From a surface level, the drip in question looks shiny and cheap. The clothes aren’t aimed at a luxury market either like Adidas’ collaborations with Gucci, Prada, and the ever-controversial Balenciaga. All it’s currently giving is a bargain bin at the outlet store. Don’t even get me started on how ugly the shoes are.

We’ve seen raging successes with the internet aesthetics and subcultures like grandpacore and blokecore, but Adidas Sportswear’s first campaign is already missing the point. The aforementioned styles had an emphasis on being thrifty, environmentally-friendly and self servicing—the kind of practices that Adidas itself isn’t exactly well-known for.

In fact, it’s a company that’s been long under fire for using extortionate labour practices in less economically developed countries like the child labour scandal that rocked the company in 2000, or the more recent 2022 news that revealed Adidas may be linked to the forced labour of Uighurs in China.

Ortega becoming the brand’s first ambassador is a very smart move, but we know full well that star-studded editorials don’t make a clothing line relevant—that is, unless you’re Marc Jacobs’ Heaven… My feelings on Heaven are conflicted but credit where credit is due, Jacobs nailed the gen Z audience down to a T when he recruited fan-favourite Pamela Anderson amongst other trendy celebs.

The growing power of Adidas’ longtime rival, Nike, is backed up by its research and it’s clearly scaring the German company. The Piper Sandler research showed that 60 per cent of teens—from a sample of 14,500 people living in the US—said Nike was their favourite footwear brand, versus only 6 per cent of teens showing up to support Adidas.

The loss of Yeezy in 2022, thanks to Kanye West’s antisemitic meltdown, has also left a big, money-shaped hole in the pockets of the company. Expanding into the gen Z market is Adidas’ best bet at reclaiming dominance, but everything we’ve seen so far is failing to inspire confidence.

Although Arana is optimistic that the ‘new’ direction will boost Adidas sales, we know just how erratic and unpredictable the TikTok generation can be. C’mon, all the research in the world couldn’t have predicted trends like mermaid sleaze or balletcore.

Adidas Sportswear ultimately lacks any distinct identity, and even worse, it seems to completely misunderstand how young people are styling themselves. Literally five seconds spent on social media or a consultation with the content creators pushing fashion forward online would’ve shown the brand that simple, skinny, silhouettes paired with a very unexciting direction is far from what Adidas needs to push itself into the ever-changing youth markets.

The clothes are missing what gen Z so often finds appealing—the freedom to layer, style and express yourself as you see fit.

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